Critical Thinking and the Critical Viewing of Art

Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Delores B. Gallo


A command of critical thinking can enhance aesthetic encounter by giving the individual a better reflective understanding of the process of viewing and the content of art. Art is important. It gives pleasure, aids in human development, defines a part of culture, and helps humans to make sense out of the world. Yet, despite art's positive role, few viewers consciously work to improve their capabilities and critical reflective judgment about art. Critical thinking skills can be taught through the content of art just as the aesthetic viewing process can be enhanced through critical thinking skills. Art educators remain, for the most part, unaware of the advances being made in the teaching for thinking in education. An interdisciplinary overview of the disciplines of art, critical thinking, interpretative traditions, and the aesthetic viewing process is the foundation of knowledge for the critical viewer. The critical viewer uses critical thinking to enhance the process of apprehension and the content of the art experience. Theory presented in this work is used in the conceptualization of a model for critical viewing. The theory, which acknowledges affect and cognition as complementary ways of knowing, is sequential but non-hierarchical. The five steps in the model are: Sustained Viewing, Analysis, Informed Viewing, Synthesis, and Reflection. The viewing process is developed through teaching for thinking strategies. Self-guided museum explorations teach individual thinking skills and guide the reader through an aesthetic viewing process similar to that of expert viewers. The readers is encouraged to be metacognitive about the process and the content of the aesthetic encounter. The critical viewer gains more than an enhanced ability to view art. The skills and abilities of critical viewing may be transferred to other content and contents, hence enriching the critical viewer's life as a whole.


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